Life Of Pi

Sorry for the delay, meant to post this earlier, but night shift takes its toll on me. On with the blog…

Life-of-Pi-poster

Life Of Pi, the movie which beat The Avengers at the Oscars for special effects, and I know why. The movie is very vivid in colour and depth, which enhances the 3D of the movie, even though I didn’t see it in 3D, I can see from the effects, that it would be effective. Although I did see the short a couple of years ago, and the short is in the movie, with an IMAX expansion, so you can see fish popping out of the walls of the screen boundaries. Ang Lee’s usual flair for beauty enhancing vision has been around for a long time, even in the days of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, so it’s almost expected at this point.

If the Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey is to be considered a transcendent human experience from the 1960’s detailing the possible rebirth of humanity (as a species), based on outside influence. While Kubrick’s film is very scientific, it’s still very much fantasy with its elements. Much like Pi’s journey through life, is very down to earth and plausible, it’s still very much fantasy, as we see it. If you’ve seen the movie, you know there are two stories he tells, one of which he shows and one of which of fact, that we don’t necessarily need to hear, but can tell has similar elements to his first story. I consider Life Of Pi a bit like 2001, in the sense that you’re suspending your current standards of what is real, and what is possible, with what you believe can be possible and can be achieved through trials and tribulations one can and possibly endure.

Granted we’ve seen survival stories, like Tom Hanks in Castaway, while that detailed one man’s survival on an island with a ball, Life Of Pi is very much the same sort of idea, except without the island, everything is on a boat in the middle of the pacific, where Pi is surrounded by the remaining animals from his parents’ zoo. Not to mention instead of a plane crash its a shipwreck, but that part is minor in the grand scheme of the plot similarities.

Unlike those movies that are grounded in reality, where we believe what we see, because it’s very plausible, and probable as to what someone would do in those situations. Life Of Pi has all the elements of discovery, loss, reinvention and faith of spirit rolled into one. I say faith of spirit, as Pi’s journey teaches us, that religion can be adopted and melded with others in a newer form of spirituality. I, myself have a similar sort of belief system, while Pi uses the polytheistic system, where all the gods are separate, different people.

Where as mine is much more monotheistic, in the sense that god may have many names, but is really one being just facilitating the needs and functions associated with the religion as people perceive them, at least in the sense of other monotheistic religions, but because I don’t follow any particular religion, I prefer to just have a spectator’s view of the religions as a whole, so certain details will be probably in error or misinterpretation and I apologise for that. I’m not trying to question others faith or start a huge discussion here, this is just what I think on the subject and it’s just one person’s opinion.

Anyway, back to the movie. The cast does an excellent job of making us believe they are who they’re playing. We see all the emotions of the characters exuding through the actors. Ang Lee’s direction is also very noteworthy, nothing is obscured, and nothing left out, we see everything happening to Pi, the only things we don’t see in detail are the computer generated death scenes. There is no blood in the movie, at least in terms of real blood, and very little CG blood. As the colour would mess with the overall beauty of the movie’s more flourescent colour scheme. Which is not a bad thing, considering the only 2 scenes we see such death involve the Tiger anyway, we still feel the emotion from such acts as we’re meant to.

The movie is an awesome fantasy thrill ride, showing faith in one’s beliefs in a positive way. Now whether or not its faithful to its source material is by no means up to me, since I have yet to read its original book. All I do know is, this is a beautiful film, that anyone can see and enjoy. Definitely worth a rental at least, and if you want to buy it, by all means, it’s definitely worth a re-watch. I was pushed into this film by those I work with, they kept going on and on about it, so I took some time out of my day and watched it before going into work again.

Also, I might do A Good Day To Die Hard, but I’m waiting for DVD, as from seeing others reviews, and how bad it’s doing on Rotten Tomatoes, my enthusiasm has left me in terms of how bad it is. So I’ll eventually get to it.

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Something a little different than normal… A hardware review…

So, first off I apologise for taking so long to write this, but I’ve been working weird hours, which hasn’t left me much time to write. The show must go on, as the saying goes. To keep me from falling asleep from boredom at work, I bought an MP3 player the first pay week.

Hipstreet 16GB MP3/Video Player

The Hipstreet 16GB MP3/Video player.

First Impressions:
At first glance, it’s a decent design, with minimal buttons and a touchscreen. Good size for onboard storage of 16 gigabytes of space, with expansion slot for SD micro cards, and of course I bought another 16 gigs to boost capacity. Not to mention I could use the card in other devices, especially with its adapter. USB connectivity that has decent speeds, depending on your ports.

Hardware testing:
After a few days of running the unit, a few good things and a few bad things have come up. One of the good things is the battery life, after a couple of complete discharges, I’ve been able to boost the battery life up to 20 hours. To keep the music and podcasts running, I tend to charge it after 16, just to have the full shift. So every couple of days, which isn’t bad in an MP3 player. The only other one I had that beat this one in battery life, was my iPod Classic 30 gig I had years ago, which for a time could last up to 4 – 12 hour shifts at my job at the time.

Another positive to the unit, is the ability to switch on the fly to the SD Micro card, using the file browser mode, you can switch to the other storage, if you want to change things up in terms of music. I tend to store my podcasts on the card and put music on the internal storage.
Another positive is the price, I bought the unit for $50 and paid another $15 for the SD Micro card. Which if you compare to Apple’s iPods, in order to have the same size, at least for the 16GB storage, you’d have to go to the Nano and spend over $125. For $50, you’d have to buy a used iPod, or contend with the small and screenless iPod shuffle, which only offers 2 gb of storage.

Another positive is that the buttons and slider on the unit work perfectly fine, the main menu button is responsive, and so is the slider for power and lock features.

Negatives:
Being a third-party MP3 to that of Apple’s iPod, which is considered the gold standard of MP3 players, there are a few issues with the unit, which could be addressed with some better hardware and software. Touchscreen is a bit twitchy, and is more responsive to that of a stylus than a finger, there will be times I’m trying to scroll through music and because of the twitchy touchscreen, it will sometimes start playing a song, instead of scrolling.

Operating system is really limited in what it can do, and the Shuffle engine is quite broken, as in order to have a random song actually pop up, you have to manually scroll through songs and select one, that it hasn’t selected previously, and then it will shuffle all songs afterward, but sometimes it will go back to its pre-selected shuffle list, so sometimes groupings of songs you may listen to say an hour or so before, will play again, even after selecting a new song. Which can get a little annoying.

Sound Engine is weak, it can’t handle high quality files very well, and bass is limited, even with the bass boost turned on. Yes, it has an equalizer, although basic. Even with higher quality ear buds and headphones, the unit still can’t handle bass. I use it with Sony’s inexpensive ear buds that I know can handle lots of bass, as I’ve used it with my Nexus S and my Creative USB soundcard, and both of those produce lots of bass, and it sounds beautiful on those ear buds. This unit handles voice fine, so if you use it for podcasts, its fine. If you use lower quality songs, they will sound better than high quality songs. I tend to have high quality MP3s and M4A files and while the unit does play them, the ones that are lower in quality from the source will sound better, but bass will clip.

One weird negative is the charging, it has a charge and play option and a USB charge option, but it doesn’t have a charge and sync option. It has a Power and Data function, but it doesn’t charge on the connection, it only powers the unit while uploading files to it. Which is a bit annoying at times.

Also, it doesn’t remember playback position for podcasts, which can be a bit of a pain, when listening to a podcast and you’ve heard the first half previously.

Final Thought:
The unit is ok overall, despite its problems, its core functionality of being an inexpensive MP3 player is still good, after a while, one doesn’t notice the bass problems, especially when there’s lots of background noise of machines running. I chose this unit because I wanted something inexpensive, with lots of storage and no camera, as my work has security safe guards which prevent me from bringing my android onto the floor, because of the obvious Camera on it.

Notes: The unit says it can update, but I have yet to apply one. So I don’t know if that shuffle problem has been fixed. Also, the OS is blatantly ripping off Apple with its Lock screen, charging screen and file browsing portions of the OS. The only original part to the GUI, is the main menu, which is a scroll, and the options are on a wheel.